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COVID-19 RULES

LATEST: Italy extends Covid indoor mask mandate for some venues

Italy has extended its mask-wearing requirement for certain indoor venues by an additional six weeks following an ordinance signed by Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Thursday evening.

The requirement to wear a face mask on public transport in Italy has been extended until June 15th.
The requirement to wear a face mask on public transport in Italy has been extended until June 15th. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

Despite initial plans to end the mask mandate on May 1st, the ordinance states that Italy’s current rules will remain in place until June 15th for indoor entertainment venues, healthcare settings and public transport.

“As of March 31st we have finished the state of emergency, but we are not out of the pandemic and we still need to act with caution,” Speranza reportedly said when announcing the changes during a speech at the Anaao Giovani conference in Rome on Thursday afternoon.

READ ALSO: Italian health experts warn against ‘reckless’ end to Covid mask rule in May

Prime Minister Mario Draghi had previously said the country’s indoor mask mandate would be dropped in most situations from May 1st, but had reserved the right to change course if deemed necessary.

The extended rules mean cinemas, theatres, concert halls, live music venues and indoor sports arenas will all continue to require visitors to wear high-grade Ffp2 masks.

All forms of local and long-distance public transport, including buses, subways and trams, as well as planes, trains and ships, will also retain the Ffp2 mask requirement.

Health and social care settings such as hospitals and residential homes will also continue to require masks, though the ordinance does not specify that Ffp2 masks are needed in this case.

Workplaces are not referenced in the ordinance, indicating that the requirement to wear a mask will be dropped, as planned, from May 1st for all employees other than those working in public transport, schools, and health or social care settings.

Masks will continue to be required in schools until the end of the school year, as had always been the case, according to the Corriere della Sera news daily.

Italy will continue to require masks in classrooms until the end of the school year.

Italy will continue to require masks in classrooms until the end of the school year. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP.

Though Speranza had reportedly said in his speech that studi professionali – ‘professional offices’ – would be included in the list of environments that would continue to require a mask from May 1st (without specifying exactly which venues would fall under this category), no such provision appears in the ordinance.

No other venues are named in the ordinance as requiring a face mask from May 1st, though the text “recommends” that masks continue to be worn in all indoor public spaces.

This tallies with previous statements from Andrea Costa, Italy’s deputy health minister, that masks would be ‘strongly recommended’, but not required by law, in most public and private workplaces.

Shops, bars and restaurants do not appear anywhere in the ordinance, indicating that mask mandates for these spaces will be dropped as planned from May 1st.

Speranza had said the ordinance will remain in place as a “bridging measure” until the government can include the extension in an upcoming decree.

Find more information about Italy’s Covid-19 health restrictions on the Italian health ministry’s website (available in English).

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COVID-19 RULES

Italy lifts mask mandate for private sector workers

Masks will no longer be required in the workplace but Italian companies will have the right to impose restrictions for employees deemed "at risk".

Italy lifts mask mandate for private sector workers

Representatives from the Italian Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Health and all major national unions collectively signed off on Thursday a new “shared protocol” (protocollo condiviso) for the implementation of anti-Covid measures in private workplaces. 

Although the full text of the bill will only be made available to the public sometime next week, portions of the document have already been released to the media, thus disclosing the government’s next steps in the fight against the virus.

The most relevant update concerns face masks, which will no longer be mandatory in private workplaces. 

However, the text specifies, FFP2 face masks remain “an important protective item aimed at safeguarding workers’ health”. As such, employers will have the right to autonomously impose the use of face coverings on categories of workers considered “at risk”.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Notably, face coverings may remain mandatory for those working in “indoor settings shared by multiple employees” or even in “outdoor settings where social distancing may not be practicable”. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions (soggetti fragili) may also be subject to such rules, which, it is worth reminding, are left to the employer’s discretion. 

Alongside mask-related restrictions, employers will also have the right to have their staff undergo temperature checks prior to entering the workplace. In such cases, anyone with a body temperature higher than 37.5C will be denied access to the workplace and will be asked to temporarily self-isolate pending further indications from their own doctor.

In line with previous measures, companies will be required to continue supplying sanitising products free of charge and regulate access to common areas (canteens, smoking areas, etc.) so as to avoid gatherings.

Additionally, employers will be advised to keep incentivising smart working (lavoro agile), as it has proved to be “a valuable tool to curb infection, especially for at-risk individuals”.

Provided that the country’s infection curve registers no significant changes, the updated protocol will remain in place until October 31st, when it will yet again be reviewed by the relevant governmental and social parties. 

With the latest round of measures, Italy has now scrapped all Covid-related health measures, except the requirement to wear face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings, and self-isolation provisions for those testing positive. 

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

Italy’s infection curve has been rising significantly since the beginning of June. From June 1st to June 14th, Covid’s R (spreading rate) rate rose back over 1 for the first time since April 8th. Also, from June 17th to June 23rd, the virus’s incidence rate was 504 cases every 100,000 residents, up by 62 per cent on the previous week.

According to Claudio Mastroianni, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Sapienza University of Rome, “with 25 per cent of daily Covid swabs coming back positive and a R rate over 1, the infection curve will likely rise at least until mid-July”.

However, albeit acknowledging the rising number of positive cases, Deputy Health Minister Andrea Costa has so far categorically excluded the possibility of re-introducing lapsed Covid measures, saying that it’ll be a “restriction-free summer”.

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